Victory Day in Moscow

In Russia May 9th is a holiday, Victory Day commemorates the end of the Great Patriotic War (as the Russians call World War 2). In Moscow the day is marked by a big military parade in Red Square (we saw the end of some of the rehearsals for this earlier in the week), and celebrations throughout the day at Park Pobedi (Victory Park).

20130510-154056.jpgSoldiers after parade rehearsals with the Kremlin in the background

The day was sunny and we’d heard that there would be a concert in the park so we packed a picnic and headed off on the metro. As we arrived, we noticed lots of people carrying flowers (Russians seem to buy a lot of cut flowers generally and we have seen several 24 hour florists…). War veterans (presumably mostly from later conflicts than WW2) go to the park in their uniform and medals and members of the public give them a flower or two from their bunch, thank them and sometimes get their photos taken together. It seemed a really nice and touching way to remember what the veterans had gone through. Other flowers are placed on the various memorials around the park.

20130510-154106.jpgVeteran with a huge bunch of flowers

20130510-154117.jpgFlowers on war memorial

The park is pretty big, and as well as lots of grassy areas contains a small church, a large memorial obelisk, and a museum of the war. The military vehicles and fortifications part of the museum was open yesterday and we had a wander around with the crowds.

20130510-155824.jpgPark Pobedi on Victory Day

20130510-155908.jpgUs enjoying the sunshine

From 2pm there was live music on a stage in the park beginning with a concert by the orchestra from the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg with their conductor, Valery Gergiev, and solo pianist, Denis Matsuev. Afterwards there were performances by military choirs and patriotic songs by (presumably well known) Russian singers.

20130510-155852.jpgObelisk and concert stage

The celebrations ended with a firework display at about 10pm and us wondering how to get back across the city to our hostel. The huge numbers of people in the crowd mean that the metro stations around the park are closed down for the evening which we hadn’t realised in advance. Not having braved the local bus system in Moscow and being a little afraid to do so in the dark without knowing at least which number bus might take us in the right direction, we opted to walk with the crowd towards the city centre in the hope of finding an open metro station. Having walked for about an hour and past 2 shut stations, we paused and reconsidered the buses (nope still no good, we didn’t even recognise the listed destinations), so were left with either a 2 hour walk home, or trying to find a taxi which wouldn’t rip us off… Still unsure, we noticed a stream of people seemed to be going down the subway steps to the nearby metro station, so we followed – yay the metro was being reopened at midnight!


We arrived back at our hostel intending to drop straight into our beds, but the owner had just returned from holiday and we were invited to join him and some friends in the kitchen. It would have been rude to refuse, so we stayed up for tea, chats and a trip to the apartment block roof for a view of nighttime Moscow before crawling into bed at 2.30am – phew, what a long day!

20130510-163115.jpgMoscow by night from our apartment block roof

5 thoughts on “Victory Day in Moscow

  1. John Bartlett

    Not so much a reply as simply a statement that I really enjoy reading these and am glad to see you both having a good time.

    1. Andrew

      Thanks John :o)
      It’s always nice to know they’re being read, but it’s even better to know that they’re enjoyable!

      We didn’t know about the Russian Victory Day holidays when we were planning, it just happened that we found ourselves in Moscow at the right time. Even better, it seems most Muscovites get out of the capital for the 4-day weekend which means the streets and Metro haven’t been as busy as we’d heard. We met a couple from South Africa when we were at the Vodka museum in St. Petersburg who had just come from Moscow and said the traffic was horrendous to the point that they couldn’t cross some of the streets!

  2. Malcolm

    A long day indeed, but what a great experience! How differently the Russians seem to treat their war heroes (regardless of the politics); what a lovely gesture of appreciation for their efforts and sufferings. The photo’s are so much a part of your logs, and really serve to highlight your descriptions… magic!
    Enjoy, and love to you both,
    mum and dad xxxx

    1. Andrew

      It was a lovely sight to witness. We had seen so many people with bunches of carnations the day before and wondered why or what they were for!


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